Thursday, January 1, 2009
Respite from disease
We were walking on Bear Butte, a sacred site for the Lakota people, in South Dakota last spring. It felt natural. Though we had only known one another for a couple days, I was magically transported into feelings of safety and belonging that I had not encountered since childhood. I felt honored by you. Your eyes seemed to reflect my joy in discovering you. The terrain in one place had rocks the size of feet; it was unstable as we walked. I heard you say “ow” because it hurt your ankles, and then you asked me if my feet were okay. Later that night, in the dark and moist heat of the sweat lodge ceremony, I heard you say my name, and it sounded like my name referred to a cherished one.
Throughout the trip we talked about intense life concerns. Looking back on it, I guess I was talking and experiencing with my imagination fully engaged and without regard for life beyond the trip. We were on a spiritual journey, and I should have left it at that. But in the moment I thought it would translate into the rest of my life. And I suppose it has, just not the way that I was fantasizing it would. In my love-drunk state I thought that I could do anything. I could heal. I belonged. The trip was a respite from disease. And I am grateful for the moment of bliss.
The disease I’m talking about here is dis-ease, as in not being comfortable, and not feeling okay. And I realize that it’s very common to project our salvation on someone else. But, then when people get together so often the other one also takes the blame for things going badly. Both of these attitudes ignore the bigger picture.
I can’t begin to wrap my mind around the events that led to my birth, or any human birth. According to current beliefs a Big Bang started our universe, then there was the miracle of life and the evolution of species. Human culture and societies formed. My ancestors participated in this. Then my dad met my mom and I was born into this time period. (Obviously I am leaving out some detail.)
And, it is a project much bigger than a blog entry to describe all the events that led up to me having the personality and life circumstances I now have. Who I have become, since birth, is a part of a larger flow of information and interactions that lead back to the first people who walked on earth, and perhaps even further back to our evolutionary ancestors. In each moment of my awareness there is potential to see myself as a natural culmination of life up to now that includes the events of my personal life as well as the lives around me and those that came before me.
From this perspective, it is not logical to blame myself for how I am showing up at any given moment. I am a part of the larger flow of life. I am a representation (there are many others) of what we were, and I hold potential (along with everybody else) for what we will become. In my actions I contribute to this greater flow. So when it comes to my interactions with another person the “your fault/my fault” thing doesn’t really hold up when looked at through the lens of the bigger picture that I’ve just barely described.
Ashtanga yoga offers a strategy for maximizing one’s contribution to the greater flow of life. It starts with Yama, which governs our interactions and helps us to conserve precious life-energy by not harming others, and continues on with ways to concentrate and express this energy towards a transcendental experience of life.
In these ancient scriptural concepts I see a way to direct my life according to whatever wisdom and inspiration I might have. So instead of flowing aimlessly, and riding out whatever current happens to push into me, there is the possibility to add some direction to my path. It’s as if at first I’ve discovered that I’m on a boat, and then I find that I actually have an engine to initiate change and a rudder so I can steer.